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Abu Dhabi denies all involvement in Bulgarian F1 track

There look set to be grave repercussions following a 'misunderstanding' that has led to an embarrassing breakdown in political relations between Bulgaria and Abu Dhabi over the mooted construction of an F1 circuit
It appears that a developing political scandal is threatening to destroy relations between Bulgaria and the Arab world and indeed with foreign investors in general, after authorities erroneously announced last week that Abu Dhabi was helping out financially in plans to build a new F1 circuit in the Balkan country.

Last week, the Bulgarian Economy Ministry press office stated that an economic co-operation agreement had been signed between Economy Minister Traicho Traikov and Sheikh Mohammed Abdul Jalil al Blouki, president of Abu Dhabi state-owned consortium Emirates Associated Business Group (EABG), to invest in the building of an F1 track at the former air base at Dobroslavtsi, around 15km from the Bulgarian capital of Sofia [see separate story – click here] and an initiative to which the country's NGOs are broadly opposed on economic grounds. Bulgarian authorities claimed that in exchange for them providing the land, EABG would provide the finances.

However, the EABG has bluntly denied ever having had any such intention, having only responded to the Bulgarian Prime Minister's invitation to meet to discuss the project out of courtesy and having made clear its lack of interest at the time. Moreover, the company professed itself so angry at the misleading nature of the information given out – arguing that it had never before encountered such a level of unprofessionalism – that it plans to cancel all of its investments in the country and advise all of its partners to do likewise.

An official statement asserted that the company is private rather than affiliated with the state, and that al Blouki is simply a businessman and not a Sheikh as the Bulgarian Economy Ministry had claimed, and had never presented himself as a representative of the Abu Dhabi government in meetings.

“We stressed on the point that F1 is a project that we will look at when we see that it is commercially viable for us as a private investment company,” EABG CEO Raid Abu Hudra told Bulgarian news agency Sega, who revealed that when a mediator from the Bulgarian prime minister's office had raised the matter of investing in an F1 circuit in the country, 'we told him we would not be interested'. “We expressed interest maybe in the agricultural sector, and maybe other sectors if there are any.

“EABG expressed its concerns that the project is at very primary stages; [...] when we asked for the Socio Economic Feasibility (the least you do before you do a project of this kind) then we were told that nothing was done. We kept on saying that we are a private company based in Abu Dhabi doing some business around the world; we are not sheiks.”

Bulgarian Foreign Affairs Minister Nikolay Mladenov has since admitted that he fears for future relations with Arab countries as a result of the international scandal, especially in the light of the fact that the country's greatest increase in exports over the last half-a-year has been with the Middle East.

“Bulgaria is leading an active policy in the Middle East, and I hope this F1 situation would not reflect on our relations with other Arab countries,” he said. “I hope this situation will be settled very soon.”

In a further twist, finally, it has been reported that EABG advisor Anwar Badwan – who was sent to Bulgaria at the weekend to try to resolve the embarrassing matter – has received 'a disgusting letter' and two e-mails from an Alex Tsakov attempting to blackmail him for €94 million 'to iron out the misunderstandings' and making threats against him and his family. The e-mails are believed to be part of a larger effort to sabotage all EABG dealings in Bulgaria, and are currently being investigated.

Related Pictures

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Bernie Ecclestone celebrates signing up another Grand Prix in the Middle East, this time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, a contract to begin in 2009 for seven years.
Abu Dhabi F1 Festival, UAE. February 3rd 2007.
Heikki Kovalainen - McLaren-Mercedes MP4/24   [pic credit: McLaren]
Fernando Alonso, Renault, 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix [pic credit: Renault F1]
Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Force India F1 VJM02 in the first practice session. Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Practice Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Friday 30 October 2009
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Business Advisor - Unregistered

September 18, 2010 9:47 PM

I would like to warn everyone thinking of cooperating with any person or entity from Abu Dhabi or UAE to make advantage of the lessons learned from the EABG-Gate. The UAE government should put an end to all those speculations and shadows and investigate the case directly and take the necessary actions against EABG and their CEO Raid Abu Hudra otherwise this story will devastate the business statue of UAE in the global community.

Poor Bulgarian - Unregistered

September 11, 2010 2:37 AM

Well I think that the company is at fault for providing wrong information about themselves. No matter how hard they try to deny it now, it is very clear that they initially presented themselves as state-related people and only a UAE investigation would clear this out. I think the company would have never mind the news that they will help build the F1 but they had big troubles with the fake shiek title which I would guess is a big problem for them back home.

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